grief for a broken world

Breaking Open

Yesterday I woke up in a funk.

This is not my normal state of being. In fact, it happens very seldom. But yesterday I woke up cranky and I continued to be in this uncomfortable place of “not right,” not happy.

Although I was into my third week of recovering from a seriously broken ankle, and although I hadn’t slept very well, and although I had a few money worries, none of these situations seemed to be the actual triggers for my unpleasant state of mind.

After over an hour of being in this discombobulated state, I finally said to myself, ‘Cindy, you need to get outside. Do some singing or chanting or something to shift the energy.’

So, I put on a jacket and wheeled myself to the door. I grabbed my crutches, pushed open the door, stepped down and, standing up as carefully as I could, made me way to a chair in the tiny courtyard.

In 2017 I had learned a song which invoked nine of the names of God. It was an extremely holy song and I thought, of all songs, this should help to shift me into a more grateful and elevated place.

I sang the first few names and was stunned to feel this enormous wave of sadness wash over me. It felt like I was feeling the sadness of the whole world. It was as if, by connecting to God, I was intimately connecting to the world. Because God is everywhere and in everything and everyone.

I was so overwhelmed by this feeling of sadness that I couldn’t continue to sing. Instead I dissolved into sobs. I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried so hard.

This poor dear world. It is so broken. There are so many who are suffering so much–not just the people, although certainly the people, but the animals, the trees, the oceans and rivers, the sky.

I realized it was absolutely appropriate to feel this sadness.

Later, as is my wont, I shared this experience on Facebook. In the course of reading everyone’s wise and kind comments, I had a small epiphany. It occurred to me that there has been a lot of anger in this country lately. A lot of finger pointing and shaming and name calling has been happening on all sides of the political spectrum (and most especially in social media.) And I realized suddenly that our anger is a cover for the deep sadness that many of us are not allowing ourselves to feel.

Malidome Some, a West African elder, writes in his book Of Water and the Spirit about the elaborate three-day-long funerals that are common in his home country of Burkina Faso. Tears, crying, and wailing are actively cultivated as a healthy expression of grief. The community gathers to mourn the loss of an individual, but as the hours pass, the tears released are for all the losses, all the collective pain.

I wonder what would happen in this country if we gathered together, not in angry protest or revolution, but in a powerful state of grief. What if we allowed for the breaking open of our hearts in a collective expression of sadness for this beloved world that is suffering so. Could our tears be a great and potent prayer? Could they provide the release that paves the way for healing?

A friend or two helped me realize that because I had become, quite literally, broken, perhaps I was better able to tune in to the brokenness of the world. Maybe my individual pain helped me to somehow unconsciously connect to the pain of many, many more. Hmm. Maybe I need to find the courage to feel the depths of my sadness without having to suffer trauma first.

I, for one, am ready for more tenderness, more vulnerability, more hearts open and shattered as we cry out together for healing. Maybe our tears are a first step in mending this broken world.